Sanctuary To Remain Focused On Humpback Whales
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has withdrawn its proposal to expand the size and focus of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary around Hawaiʻi, and will instead remain focused on humpback whales, agency officials announced. The agency informed the state that it plans to continue the sanctuary “as it was first designated by Congress,” to protect humpback whales and their habitat.
A proposal had contemplated a move from a single species sanctuary to one with expanded boundaries and a broader ecosystem scope.
The HIHWNMS was established in 1992 and includes waters stretching from the shore to 600 feet deep off of Maui Nui, and includes Penguin Bank off of the north shore of Kauaʻi, as well as the north and south shores of Oʻahu and the north Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
The expansion proposal would have added 235 square miles to the sanctuary by including state and federal waters around O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.
After listening to input from the community and the state, NOAA representatives say they decided against the move which would have resulted in the expansion of federal jurisdiction into state waters.
DLNR Chair Suzanne Case issued a statement in response to the decision saying, “The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources consistently works to implement an integrated, ecosystem-based approach to management.”
She continued saying, “We believe strongly that this can only be achieved through partnerships in which each entity builds upon and leverages its unique strengths. The Sanctuary has done this extraordinarily well with humpback whales for over 20 years and we had hoped that this expertise could be extended to other marine mammals.”
Although the expansion proposal was scrapped, state officials said they do look forward to “building upon accomplishments, as well as highlighting successes, particularly the Sanctuary’s world-renowned entanglement response program, at the World Conservation Congress coming to Hawaii in September.”
Humpback whales make their annual visit to the warm waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands each winter to mate, breed and give birth.